Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day - Water

This morning when I logged onto Facebook, I found out that it is Blog Action Day, and the topic is water. So the thing is to blog about a topic related to water today - and since I'm at home with a cold, it seemed like a good thing to do.

In my world, the first water issue I think of is single-use plastic water bottles (plastic is the bane of my existence, but it's darned hard to get away from). Of course, there are numerous water issues that could be discussed, including the fact that about 1 in 8 people on the planet do not have safe, clean drinking water. I could also discuss water consumption, conservation and collection methods. Or I could discuss rising water levels and the fact that at least 18 populated islands around the world have sunk and many more continue to sink threatening hundreds of thousands of people. But in my world, where I don't see people lacking water, islands sinking and where we've had more rain than we wanted this year, bottled water comes to mind.

So I'll start with the main point: plastic lasts forever and we make single-used water bottles out of it. So what's with that? Use it once and then it lasts forever. Literally. Even if it breaks down into little tiny sand-sized pieces, it's still plastic. It's still not natural. And we don't know what it will do to the organisms that ingest it.

Bottled water has been marketed as providing people with clean, convenient, safe, higher-than-tap-quality water. But here's the reality: it is convenient if you don't have water with you, but if you carry your own water bottle, the point is moot - because it is far less convenient to find a store and wait in line to pay money for water than to simply open your own re-usable bottle; bottled water is thousands of times more expensive than tap water; and almost 1/2 of all bottled water sold in the U.S. comes from the same source as tap water. I remember when I lived in Austin in the 1990's, I bought bottled water and on the label it said something along the lines of: "Houston water source". Which basically means that the company was pouring tap water into bottles and selling it at an incredible profit. And it was legal.

I was trying to find some figures about water bottle consumption, but different sources had such differing numbers that it really is hard to be accurate. So I'll just give you ranges. Somewhere between 29 and 70 billion bottles are disposed of in the U.S. each year. AND 75-86% OF THEM ARE NOT RECYCLED!!! That's somewhere between 17 and 32 million barrels of oil used just in the production of disposable water bottles (not to mention transportation).

Those bottles that aren't recycled end up in landfills - if we're lucky. Many of them end up uncontrolled in the environment. And so many of those end up in our oceans. Along with their caps, plastic bags and other plastic garbage, these plastics are creating huge problems in the oceans - creating areas of ocean that are akin to plastic soup. There are some fantastic photos that everyone should see at http://www.midwayjourney.com/. Baby albatross are fed plastic by their parents causing them to starve due to a clogged system and lack of nutrition. A lot of the plastic in these babies are plastic bottle caps.

If you think that your actions won't make a difference, I encourage you to think twice. If you can be an example to your children and your friends, your actions can actually make a difference. We ALL need to act and we all need to be examples. If you make one change in your life today, please make it to never buy bottled water again. Get a stainless steel bottle and carry it with you. After that, stop using other single-use plastics - grocery bags, straws, take-out containers and the like. It's not that hard, and every little bit helps.

As a final thought, I'm going to quote another blogger (from Plastic Pollution Coalition today): "Picture a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That's how much oil was used to produce the bottle". It's a great visual. Think of it next time you even consider buying a plastic water bottle.

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